How a Surviving Spouse Owns Home After Inheriting the Intestate Louisiana Usufruct

Whenever a Louisiana married resident dies owning a home with their spouse, and they pass away without ever having signed a Will or Trust (they died "intestate", issues always arise.

I was working with a surviving husband whose wife had died a few weeks earlier. The surviving husband really wanted to own their home. He said that he may want to sell it in the upcoming months or years, he may want to create a home equity line of credit, and he also said that while he has no plans for remarriage, he would want to be able to provide a roof over a new wife's head if he dies before her.

When he came into my office he told he that she had never signed a WIll. He "assumed" that he would own the house since they bought it together and it was paid for. But his assumption was false. I had to tell him that since his wife passed away without any estate legal program in place, that he would continue owning his "one-half" of the house, and that he would be inheriting the "usufruct" of his wife's half of the home until the earlier to occur of his death or remarriage. I further told him that their children would inherit the "naked ownership" of her half of the house.

Some Louisiana folks mistakenly believe that when a married person dies without a Last Will, then half of the deceased's half would go to the surviving spouse, and the other half of the deceased spouse's half would go to the children. But this is an incorrect assumption.

The husband asked me how in the world could he get ownership of the house solely in his name. I told him that we would need to complete his wife's succession first. The succession will require that the home be re-titled so that their children are naked owners of his deceased wife's half of the home, and the surviving husband would own the usufruct of her half until he died or remarried.

Then, his children will sign the necessary paperwork to donate their naked ownership interest back to their father. This would enable the surviving father to have "full ownership" of the home. He needed the children's cooperation to obtain full ownership but the children were completely supportive of the concept of their father owning the home that he had acquired and paid for.

In order to avoid sticky situations when a family member or loved one passes away, it always makes sense to take care of this ahead of time and create an estate legal program that makes settling your estate easier and the right way.